The Golden Age is Now: A New Cinema & Bar in Surry Hills

It opened last weekend and has sold out almost all its sessions for the coming week, so you’d better get in quick if you want to catch a screening at Surry Hills’ new cinematic darling, Golden Age Cinema & Bar.

Golden Age Cinema & Bar

Before pirates and iTunes and billboard-sized televisions, sweethearts, families and singles seeking a night out would head to the cinema for an entertainment experience like no other. Not so long ago, going to the movies was a special outing involving heavy draped curtains, salty treats and films that wouldn’t hit the TV set till a year later. Thanks to Barrie Barton and Right Angle Studio, the romance hasn’t died.

Having already fallen in love with one of Sydney’s film icons, the former Paramount Pictures building in Surry Hills, Barton and his partners decided to bring the glamour back to the big screen. Enlisting the programming skills of writer, radio host and all-round cinephile Kate Jinx, and bringing with him the experience of a prior venture (Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne), Barton has opened the tastefully deco and thoughtfully conceived Golden Age Cinema & Bar.

“People often talk of ‘golden ages’, and always in retrospect, as if the best time of your life is something you can only see in the rear-view mirror,” says Barton. “That’s tragic isn’t it? The strange thing about film is that for such a beautiful art form, it is seldom shown in a beautiful setting. Sydney has some amazing outdoor cinemas, but we wanted to do something dark, moody and unashamedly niche – an intimate indoor experience.”linebreak

Golden Age Cinema & Bar

“Having seen so many beautiful independent cinemas close down in the past 15 or so years, there’s been a growing need for a new venue that meets Sydney’s interest in film as well as the desire for a beautiful space that benefits the whole event of ‘going to the movies’,” says Jinx. “The heritage-listed building was formerly the home of Paramount Pictures, built in 1940 and the design of the bar and theatre pays homage to that history, but also adds a modern sense of drama and detail.”

Unlike conventional theatres, Golden Age is able to tailor its program to its niche, to screening the seldom seen, and indeed, to its own whim. “Because we have an intimate space, we can take a more adventurous attitude towards programming,” says Jinx. “I’m passionate about screening movies that wouldn’t otherwise be shown in a Sydney cinema outside of festivals.

“We wanted to be able to hand-pick a few of the best new titles for each season – such as the elegantly goofy Frances Ha and Before Midnight – but also bring back some recent ones that perhaps didn’t get quite the exposure they deserved, like Beasts of the Southern Wild or the incredibly beautiful Tabu,” Jinx continues.  “And because I don’t know anyone who only watches new films or only golden oldies, we have dedicated sessions for cult films, children’s films, horrors and classics in there as well. Not just something for everyone, but something great for everyone.”

It wouldn’t quite be a hip, Sydney experience without the food and drink to match, and Golden Age is happy to boast that alongside its moodily lit bar, a tasteful tribute to 1940s Deco, is new café The Paramount Coffee Project. The effort of Russell Beard of Surry Hills café Reuben Hills and Mark Dundon from Melbourne’s Seven Seeds, The Paramount provides delectable brews and affordable meals – and if you’re feeling full and want to work off all that delicious food, pick up a fresh new ride at the neighbouring shop, tokyobike.linebreak

Golden Age Cinema & Bar
“Our approach to food and drink has been based on the notion that going to the cinema shouldn’t mean you have to eat junk food,” says Barton. “We have an artisan range of small goods, cheeses, cured foods and savoury popcorn, along with a short but awesome wine and cocktail list. And Russell Beard and Mark Dundon [are] two of the most fantastic men in the coffee game, so I’ve no doubt what they do will be amazing.”

Dedicated to contributing to the cultural zeitgeist, Barton assures that the golden age doesn’t have to be behind us. “Paramount House was the centre of the silver screen in the golden age of Hollywood during the ’40s and ’50s, but our conjecture is that it will soon be the centre of a new golden age in Surry Hills,” he says. “This is the most creatively potent and energetic neighbourhood in Australia, full of interesting people doing fantastic things. In some sense, the good, old days are now.”

Golden Age Cinema & Bar, Paramount House, 80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills.

Words: Dijana Kumurdian
Photography: Douglas Lance Gibson

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